An episode of the syndicated western series aired at children. Originally telecast 18 April 1955. Starring Dickie Jones. (is this file playable? Please let me know). Note: The main character in the series was stated as not being related to Buffalo Bill.
August 22, 2014
A good start (edited 8-22-14)
Buffalo Bill Jr. is a Western television show. It has several action scenes and a lack of major adult themes, indicating that it it something that can be watched by the entire family. The show was targeted towards children, primarily boys, with the protagonist’s younger sister there to appeal to girls. The series was broadcast in first-run syndication in a thirty minute timeslot, with the actual episodes ranging anywhere from 24 minutes to 27 minutes, depending on the content of the story. The series was also rebroadcast for one year on ABC’s Saturday morning schedule in 1964, but during its airing, the series had no firm ties to any networks as it was written and sold entirely for syndication, which allowed multiple networks and their affiliates to air it as see fit.
The series was shot in black and white on 35mm film and had a mono sound mix. The series has a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. It first aired on March 1st, 1955. It lasted for two seasons and 42 episodes, with the final episode airing on September 21st, 1956. The Glen Glenn Sound Company did the audio recording for the show. Despite the show taking place in Texas, the show was filmed in California, primarily at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth. The show was filmed, not shot live, and utilized a single camera set-up.
The series was produced by Flying A Productions, a production company that focused mainly on Westerns. The founder of the company was movie star and singer Gene Autry, who was also the executive producer of Buffalo Bill Jr. along with Armand Schaefer, who was a Canadian film director and producer. Louis Gray and Eric Jenson were regular producers of the program. Flying ‘A’ productions was created in 1950 and was responsible for seven television shows, four of which (Buffalo Bill Jr., Annie Oakley, The Range Rider, and Death Valley Days) were written for syndication and three of which (The Gene Autry Show, Cavalcade of America and The Adventures of Champion) were network series. The Gene Autry Show and The Adventures of Champion both aired on CBS, while Cavalcade of America first aired on NBC from 1952 to 1953 before moving to ABC from 1953 to 1957. Flying A productions was owned half by Autry himself and half by a split between Armand Schaefer and Mitchell Hamilsburg, an executive who worked in Autry’s movie company, Flying A Pictures. If the company was unable to come to an agreement to a distributor for Buffalo Bill Jr., then Flying A Productions would distribute the show itself, though this was rare. By 1957, all seven of Flying A Productions’ series had ceased production.
The series was co-sponsored by Mars, Inc and Brown Shoe Company. Their ads paired with the show reached over 110 markets. The stations Buffalo Bill was broadcast on include CBS and its affiliates such as KING and WHBF. The former broadcast the show at 4:30 PM on Saturday while the latter broadcast it at 9:00 AM on Saturday. The series was also broadcast by WXEL, a CBS affiliate in Cleveland. WHBF achieved a 17.0 rating with Buffalo Bill Jr. while KING received a 7.0. Other stations include WPIX, an independent station, and WCBS-TV. When airing on CBS stations, the show was distributed in fringe markets by CBS TV Film Sales, the largest single syndicator of Western series at the time. Buffalo Bill Jr. was also broadcast on WGN-TV (a network in Chicago) in 1956 as part of a weekly action-adventure-mystery-Western block aimed at both children and kids. The block aired every day from 6:00 to 6:30 PM, with Buffalo Bill Jr. airing on Thursdays and pulling a 12.4 rating. This, programming block helped boost WGN-TV’s rating in that timeslot by almost six times, with its average rating of 2.0 rising to 11.5.
Unfortunately, despite warm critical reactions, the show only lasted two seasons and did not break into the top thirty nationwide ratings. It faced stiff competition from quiz shows like The $64,000 Question and sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, both of which were airing at the time. Variety and comedy shows like the Ed Sullivan show and The Jack Benny Program also beat it in its ratings. Even using single studio ratings and local ratings, the highest it ever received on any one station was a 15 on WHBF in Rock Island, Illinois. The series was often aired before or after other Flying A Productions, several of which were airing the same year as Buffalo Bill Jr. When Buffalo Bill Jr. aired on WCBS-TV, based in New York, it was followed by Flying A’s Annie Oakley. The series was called out as being a budget saving show, due to the re-use of sets, locations, props and even actors from other Flying A programs. Nevertheless, reviewers stated that the show, while cheap and not particularly original, followed an already well-tested formula that would entertain its target young viewers. The lack of violent deaths coupled with good action scenes and tight scripts were also praised.
The series takes place in the 1880s in Texas. Dick Jones, a former child star and stuntman who was a co-star on Flying A’s Range Rider at the time (a show whose production had finished at the time of Bill’s filming yet was still airing), plays twenty-eight year old Buffalo Bill Jr. Nancy Gilbert, who had previously acted in one episode of The Gene Autry show, plays his younger sister, twelve year old Calamity. The two were orphaned as kids when their wagon train was attacked by Native Americans in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The two were rescued and adopted by Judge Ben “Fair and Square” Wiley, played by Harry V. Cheshire. Cheshire was a character actor who had been in over 100 movies by the time Buffalo Bill Jr. was airing and who had previously acted in The Gene Autry show as well. The children adopt the new names of Buffalo Bill Jr. and Calamity, after the famous frontier figures even though they are not related to the two in any way. Bill and Calamity live with Wiley as their adoptive father in Wileyville, Texas, a town that the judge himself founded. The series follows an episodic format that deals with the lives of the family Wileyville, trying to help around the store while also dealing with gunslingers, outlaws, famous Western figures and outlaws and other sorts of people that pass through town. Bill is the central protagonist with his younger sister assisting him at times when they aren’t arguing. Judge Ben Wiley serves as the comic relief. Usually a problem from outside the town, whether it be thieves, outlaws, hostile Native Americans, greedy and corrupt businessmen or just the march of progress from out East. It is then up to Bill, the marshal of Wileyville, to help fix things, often with several gunfights and exciting action sequences, several of which Jones perform his own stunts.
This episode, entitled First Posse, aired on April 18th, 1955. It aired at a variety of different times that day, but on KING it aired as a first-run at 4:30 PM. It was directed by Ray Nazarro, who directed the second largest amount of episodes in the series, ten episodes, with that total being beat by George Achainbaud’s total of nineteen. The episode was written by Samuel Newman, one of three episodes he had written. The episode was produced by Louis Gray and Gene Autry, with the cinematography by William Bradford and the editing by Bruce B. Pierce. Armand Schaefer was in charge of production management and Glenn Cook was assistant director. Anthony Wollner worked as supervising film editor and Erma E. Levin worked as the music editor.
The general plot of the story involves Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday arriving in Wileyville in pursuit of outlaws, a task which Buffalo Bill Jr. and Judge Wiley end up helping them with. The episode begins with the show’s simple, yet effective opening in which it introduces Buffalo Bill Jr., Calamity and Judge Wiley. It then opens with some voiceover narration that sets the background information for the events of each episode. In First Posse, it describes the famous lawmen Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and foreshadows the trouble that will soon arrive in Wileyville. In Wileyville, the bickering relationship between Bill and the hotheaded Calamity is exemplified as the two argue about taking inventory while Judge Wiley tries to calm them down as the voice of reason. Later, two outlaws arrive in the store, asking for help with the wounded one’s hand. The outlaws take the family hostage until Bill fights back with the help of Calamity. The scene ends with Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp entering the store and arresting the two outlaws. At dinner with his family and their rescuers, Bill asks if he can join Earp’s posse to hunt outlaws, but gets rejected for being too young. Later, Bill leaves to go to the railroad junction to pick up some supplies, unknowingly taking along Calamity, who stowed away in the back of the cart. The train’s whistle spooks the horses, causing Bill to ride after them and save Calamity, whose dress was caught in the cart.
The next scene, Holliday recounts the story of Tombstone, in which the head outlaw, Frank Stilwell, managed to escape a violent shootout with two of his men. Doc Holliday asks for help in assembling two posses to hunt down the outlaws, yet he refuses to take Bill again. Eventually, while looking for his children Judge Wiley gets cornered and taken hostage by Stilwell. Calamity follows Bill, who is trying to join a posse, only to get caught by him. The two go back home, only to discover Judge Wiley tied up. With Calamity causing distractions to fool Stilwell, the two work together and Bill gets a gun on Stilwell. Unfortunately, Calamity opens a door on Bill and hits him in the head, allowing Stilwell to escape. After a horse chase, Stilwell shakes Bill and goes to the train station, where he takes Earp and the train station attendant hostage. Luckily, Bill finds Stilwell and captures him after a brief fight. The episode ends as the majority of the episodes do: in Judge Wiley’s office with him preparing to make a decision about the day’s events. In this instance, Wiley is trying to decide the punishments for Bill and Calamity for them disobeying him. He doesn’t punish Calamity but is about to punish Bill until Earp shows up and requests that Bill join his posse, to which the judge agrees. Bill is so happy that he crashes through a table, in a moment that acts as both physical comedy and shows off Dick Jones’ ability as a stuntman.
Ultimately, Buffalo Bill Jr. is an inoffensive Western that does not necessarily innovate but provides a decent amount of comedy and action with pacing that’s relatively fast, even with today’s standards. There is little to no socio-political commentary, though Calamity’s character ranges a polite younger sister to a capable ally to a bratty child to a helpless young girl. However, due to the young age that her character is supposed to be, along with the lack of other characters commenting on any gender roles, it seems that the creators do not wish to imply anything positive or negative one way or another. The show is very neutral and easy to swallow, as its contemporary critics pointed out. Unfortunately, this standard formula caused it to last for only two seasons and never make it too high in the ratings.
Billboard Magazine Apr 30, 1955, Billboard Aug 6, 1955, Billboard Sep 3, 1955, Billboard Dec 22, 1956